Queen Boudica: Celtic Queen of Iron Age Roman Britain

Queen Boudica: Celtic Queen of Iron Age Roman Britain

"...a terrible disaster occurred in Britain. Two cities were sacked, eighty thousand of the Romans and of their allies perished, and the island was lost to Rome. Moreover, all this ruin was brought upon the Romans by a woman, a fact which in itself caused them the greatest shame....But the person who was chiefly instrumental in rousing the natives and persuading them to fight the Romans, the person who was thought worthy to be their leader and who directed the conduct of the entire war, was Buduica, a Briton woman of the royal family and possessed of greater intelligence than often belongs to women....In stature she was very tall, in appearance most terrifying, in the glance of her eye most fierce, and her voice was harsh; a great mass of the tawniest hair fell to her hips; around her neck was a large golden necklace; and she wore a tunic of divers colours over which a thick mantle was fastened with a brooch. This was her invariable attire." -Dio, Roman History (LXII.1-2)


Boudica was a Celtic queen of the Iceni tribe in England who led a rebellion against Roman occupation around 60 A.D. All of the existing information about her comes from Roman scholars, particularly Tacitus and Cassius Dio, little is known about her early life.

She married Prasutagas, king of the Iceni tribe. The Iceni, at the time of the Roman invasion, were a wealthy people, as evidenced by hordes of precious metals that have been found, its leaders had been minting coins for nearly a century.

When the Romans conquered southern England in 43 A.D., most Celtic tribes were forced to submit, but the Romans let Prasutagas continue in power as a forced ally of the Empire. When he died without a male heir in 60 A.D., the Romans annexed his kingdom and confiscated his family’s land and property.

The revolt, which took place 17 years after Rome’s invasion of Britain, resulted in the destruction of at least two Roman settlements, including Londinium (modern London). With her daughters in front of her, Boudica drove her chariot among the tribes in an effort to force Rome's imperial occupation off the island. The battle became a massacre. 

Boudica’s ability to unify thousands reveals an overarching unhappiness with the Roman presence. Evidence from the time of the rebellion of imported grains that imply one or more failed local harvests, which, coupled with the Roman demand for taxes paid in produce, suggest that hunger may have also played a role in the uprising.

Following Boudicca's defeat, govenor Gaius Suetonius Paulinus instituted harsher laws on the indigenous people of Britain until he was replaced by Publius Petronius Turpilianus. 

The battle over, Tacitus said that Boudica took poison to avoid being captured, while Dio said that she died of illness (possibly from a wound).


Like this post? Stop by and read "Kandake Amani: Leading the Kushites Against the Romans." Queen Amani remains one of the most famous Meroitic queens because of her role in leading the Kushite army against the Romans in a war that lasted three years. This war is largely responsible for halting Rome’s southward expansion in Africa.

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